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For those who don't know, the UK rail network was largely privatised in the 1990s. Whether or not rail privatisation is a good thing is still very much up for debate, but even most pro-privatisation people feel the way it was done wasn't the right way! One upshot is that most non-trivial journeys will involve travel on trains operated by more than one train company.

Let's consider a hypothetical journey, A to D with a change of trains at C. The A-C journey is to be operated by TrainCoA, C-D by TrainCoB. Unfortunately, the A-C train is cancelled, so you end up getting a later train A-B, another B-C, and then a later train than you'd planned C-D. Oh, and then the C-D train you eventually caught was very late too. Everything was bought on a single ticket.

In this situation, which train company do claim compensation from? TrainCoA, as their initial cancellation was your first delay? TrainCoB, as their C-D delay was the largest delay on your journey? TrainCoC, who ran the A-B journey that you got instead, as they were the first company who's trains you managed to take? Or can you take advantage of the privatised nature of the system, review the compensation policies of all three train operating companies, and apply for compensation from whichever company has the most generous compensation for your sequence of delays? (Many of the companies have different minimum delays before compensation is due, and different exclusions on what their delay compensation covers....)

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3 Answers 3

I cannot find a definitive answer, but the National Rail Conditions of Carriage are supposed to cover this. They say:

Where delays, cancellations or poor service arise for reasons within the control of a Train Company or Rail Service Company, you are entitled to compensation in accordance with the arrangements set out in that Train Company’s Passenger’s Charter. This can be obtained from the relevant Train Company’s ticket offices, customer relations office and internet sales site.

I read that to say that it's the company(ies) that were due to operate the train you were originally planning to get - in this case, A-C. I suspect you certainly have no claim against the C-D company. However, the usual law in the UK would, I think (IANAL), imply it's the company you bought the ticket from, as they are the one you have a contract with. That's certainly where I would start.

Another option is to contact your local Citizens' Advice Bureau. They are normally helpful, and have an advice page here, but it doesn't directly address this situation.

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In the case described in the question (which has happened to me a few times), I suffered delays on two different trains, each delayed train operated by a different company. One company has a more generous compensation scheme than the other, what I'm not sure is if I claim from the first delay, the longest delay, the one who sold the ticket, any one I like etc... –  Gagravarr Nov 29 '12 at 12:34
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Well, I suspect according to the NRCC, you can claim for both delays against both companies, using their relevant schemes. As you can see the wording is vague. But I assume you bought the ticket from one operator only, which will make that complicated, since the ticket prices aren't separated. Also, in law I suspect the operator you purchased from is the only one you have a complaint against (analogous to complaining to the retailer when a courier fails to deliver). So as I say, that's where I'd start in practice. –  Andrew Ferrier Nov 29 '12 at 12:55
    
Each delay on its own is too small for a claim, but the total delay over the whole journey is enough. Not sure if I can claim from the TOC I bought the ticket from, as I didn't travel on any of their trains - they just have the easiest to use website! It's certainly a mess.... –  Gagravarr Nov 29 '12 at 12:58
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Well, you may have answered your own question - is it really worth the hassle? :) As I say, though, in law, I suspect you have a legitimate claim against the company you bought the ticket from, irrespective of the NRCC - they failed to provide the service you paid for. Look at this way - they should certainly be advising you who to claim against, if it isn't them. –  Andrew Ferrier Nov 29 '12 at 13:02
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I think for that I wouldn't think it worth the hassle, to be honest. (And I reckon 3 minutes is very optimistic :-) –  Rory Alsop Nov 30 '12 at 9:44
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I asked National Rail Enquiries about this, the part of ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies) who provide timetable queries, and call themselves "definitive source of information for all passenger rail services on the National Rail network in England, Wales and Scotland". Their website also hots the National Rail Conditions of Carriage which Andrew quoted in his answer.

NRE have come back with a rather vague answer:

I understand there were delays on two legs of the journey. You may contact the train companies that operate services on the two routes, where there were delays.  

Please use the following link to locate contact details of the train companies concerned:

http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/tocs_maps/tocs/

That would appear to say that you can complain to any company running trains over the part of the route where you suffered any delay! That didn't sound correct, so I then asked another part of ATOC, and after checking with the Fares and Retailing team I've been given this answer:

We would recommend that a claim be made to either the TOC that caused the initial delay, or where multiple TOC delays are involved, the TOC which carried them for the longer part of their journey. In the small number of cases where this is not obvious, the customer can choose who they claim from but they can only claim under one passengers' charter, and will be subject to that charter for the calculation of any refund due on the whole value of their ticket.

So, it seems there's no definitive answer written into the contracts, and as a customer you do have a bit of a choice in the case of multiple delays. This means it's worth reading through the different passenger's charters carefully, to work out if one company pays more compensation for your delay than another!

Also, it's worth considering how you claim - paper or online. Cross Country Trains operate on lots of routes, and allow you to claim by emailing them a photo of your ticket, cut in half, rather than forcing you to find a form that they've always run out of, and post it with your own stamp....

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I am aware of a UK website called Train Refunds (although have never used it).

TrainRefunds is a completely free service for commuters who are tired of poor performance and late running trains. There aim is to bring commuters together to make sure that you get the refunds that you are entitled to.

Their service lets users enter details of delays that can be claimed for. Every user has access to that information (every delay entered on every route) to make sure that everyone gets to claim.

They provide:

  • Details of the train operating companies including their addresses, contact numbers and refund policies so that you know what you are entitled to.
  • Access to be able to enter delays and see the delays that other users have registered.
  • An email at the end of each week listing all delays on your route so you can make sure that you get to claim. You can stop the weekly email if you wish.

More info can be found here:

http://www.trainrefunds.co.uk/

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It looks like it relies on commuters in a route to record the delays, so that others can use it, so I'm not sure how good their coverage is? It also looks more aimed at commuters rather than occasional travellers –  Gagravarr Jan 30 '13 at 12:57
    
@Gagravarr I agree with you. Commuters are however travellers, just on a daily basis. So for those people who use the train on a daily basis, it maybe beneficial. Having never used the site, I cannot give definitive feedback –  Simon Jan 30 '13 at 12:59
    
The compensation arrangements for season tickets are very different though... –  Gagravarr Jan 30 '13 at 13:29
    
@Gagravarr Ah I see...Good to know, thx –  Simon Jan 30 '13 at 14:07

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